Monday, September 05, 2005

The Teflon President is not to blame

The results of a ABC/Washington Post poll reveal that although a large majority (75%) say the state and local governments were not adequately prepared for Katrina (fair enough) and that although a large majority (67%) say the federal government was not adequately prepared (glaringly obvious), only a minority (44%) "blame Bush."

Let's recap:

Under George W. Bush's aegis, the cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security was created. Let me restate that bureau's name: Homeland Security. Homeland. Security. Folded into that bureaucracy was the once-functioning, once-cabinet-level FEMA.

Mr. Bush's pick for head of FEMA was failed horse-show commissioner Michael Brown. On day five of the crisis (counting from Monday as day 1), as little old ladies drowned in their nursing homes and babies died in their mothers' arms, live, in front of the nation, Bush praised "Brownie" for doing a "heck of a job."

More importantly, however, a leader's job is to be visible , strong, and reassuring when leadership is needed. When Bush arrived in the Gulf, even CNN's Daryl Kagan commented on the bizarro scene as Bush was filmed live being briefed by Brown and others. Instead of at least acting Presidential, Bush was running as fast as he could to catch up. Instead of somberly reassuring a shattered region (and the rest of us), Bush joked about Trent Lott's future lovely home and his own wasted youth in the Big Easy.

Harry S Truman famously displayed a sign on his Oval Office desk that declared, "The buck stops here."

In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, "The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job.

George W. Bush had some decisions to make last week, and he decided to play guitar and golf.

Mr. Bush is no Truman, and apparently 55% of those polled like it that way.

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